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Our health care workers’ commitment defines the best of who we are as Idahoans. To them: Thank you.

A health care worker in personal protective equipment observes a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise on Sept. 16, 2021. (Audrey Dutton/Idaho Capital Sun)
A health care worker in personal protective equipment observes a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise on Sept. 16, 2021. (Audrey Dutton/Idaho Capital Sun)

The best way we can show support for our health care workers is to choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine, writes guest columnist Charlene Maher.

I started my career in health care as a critical care nurse, so I know firsthand both the exceptional demand and the deeply rewarding nature of the job. No one gets into medicine for the accolades or because they think it will be easy. They choose the field because they want to help people.

But these days, health care workers in Idaho and across the country are being forced to their breaking points by the COVID-19 pandemic – having to experience the most painful realities of their jobs day after day while being overwhelmed with the number of patients they are trying to help.

Still, they are there every day – working tirelessly to save every life they can despite the personal toll it is taking on them. Statewide, health care workers saw approximately 20 COVID-19 related deaths a day in the second half of September.

Health care workers are the onesstanding by the bedsides, doing everything they can, even if it is just to offer comfort to critically ill patients or their families. Despite criticism and accusations and even abuse in some recent cases, they stay on the frontlines of this battle, never forgetting their mission to help those who need them.

Their resiliency and compassion has filled me with gratitude. To me, there are no greater heroes than Idaho’s health care workers, whose commitment defines the very best of who we are as Idahoans. These everyday heroes deserve our heart-felt thanks. To everyone working in our health care systems, I give you my deepest thanks and gratitude for what you are doing.

But the best way we can all show our support for our health care workers, and to support each other in the community, is to choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines have been clinically proven to be safe and effective for ages 12 and older and hundreds of millions of people have already been vaccinated.

Health care workers have shouldered an incredible burden during the pandemic, and we cannot continue to ask that they carry it alone. The best way to ease the stress on our healthcare system, and more importantly, to save lives, is for more of us to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated not only helps protect against COVID-19, fewer hospitalizations means less stress on our hospital system, which means our neighbors who have a heart attack, need cancer treatment, or are in a car accident are not waiting for beds otherwise filled with COVID-19 patients.

I know that medical decisions are a personal choice, and that many people are hesitant. These are not easy decisions to make. But as Idahoans, we must ask ourselves what our responsibility is to our neighbors. Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, or any vaccine, is a choice, but our actions impact the world around us, and it is our responsibility to change the course of the virus.

Our health care workers will endure. They will continue to treat each patient to the best of their ability despite a strained hospital system nearing its breaking point. But we can each do something to help them and our communities.

COVID-19 vaccines are free, and the side effects are minimal – far less than the risks posed by the virus.

Contact your provider if you have questions about the vaccine, its side effects, or how it works. And while you are on the phone with them, be sure to say thank you.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state.